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Welsh Whistler?

Given the Welsh weather, perhaps this would be more appropriate than a chairlift?

Jason Carpenter, the man behind the ever-popular Dragon Downhill race series (and associated practice/uplift days) has kicked off a campaign to move Welsh mountain biking up a notch – by getting a chairlift installed on a mountain in South Wales.

It sounds initially a bit pie-in-the-sky, but unpack the idea a bit and he might well be on to something. Jason reckons that he’s proved that there’s a demand for uplifts through his races and uplift days – he reckons he spends up to £80,000 a year on transport, and that’s set to rise with the new uplift safety regulations being brought in by the Forestry Commission.

Most of the South Wales DH tracks are in otherwise essentially empty forests – no visitor centres, no personnel, not many people about. For that reason FC likes to discourage their use outside organised race/practice days – if someone spangs themselves up they’re likely to be a bit stuck. So a lot of the time the courses are unused. But FC gets revenue from the events, so it’d like to see more of them. The more events there are, the higher the transport costs per year and the more the sizable cost of installing a chairlift on a particular mountain and developing a bunch of courses from there starts to make sense.

The huge up-front costs are obviously something of an obstacle (not to mention planning permission, but that’s a bridge to be crossed later). Jason’s looking at various possible funding sources – Lottery funding, redevelopment grants, all that kind of thing. But to get things going and to demonstrate that he’s serious, he’s aiming to raise £250,000 from private investors – or, to put it another way, riders.

Which brings us to the Dragon Downhill “Chairlift in five years or your money back” fund. Jason’s looking for anyone who’s willing to stump up real, hard cash to get the project going, thus establishing a decent kitty before going for match-funding from various sources. He’s looking for a pretty hefty commitment – the minimum pledge is £1,000, although there’s nothing stopping a bunch of people clubbing together to reach it. If enough people make serious offers of cash, he’ll pursue the idea further.

And he’s doing pretty well already. Obviously pledging ten grand of his own money has given him a head start, but so far he’s got offers totalling £24,000 – nearly 10% of the target already. It certainly wouldn’t take many big-name sponsors to help things along.

Rheola is being tentatively mooted as the best location for a lift-equipped South Wales MTB park – a couple of international airports nearby, easy road access, local accommodation. With a lift in, there’d be loads of scope for multiple DH and freeride trails – it’d be like a Welsh Whistler. Which would be great.

Interested parties can contact Jason by email.


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